Australia is on the verge of a wireless data revolution with mobile broadband already representing more than 90 percent of total broadband internet services in Australia. What does this mean for your business?
The growth of wireless broadband services is set to continue, being expected to reach nearly 30 percent by the end of 2010. The HSPA-based 3G services offered by Australian mobile network operators have resulted in a significant burst of growth. So, what does this mean for your business?
Broadband today: your options
3G mobile broadband is now available from all of the major operators in Australia. The major differences between the available services are coverage, performance and price. Since launching its NextG network, Telstra has led the race in terms of coverage and performance but Optus is rapidly closing the gap. VHA, the organisation resulting from the merger of Vodafone and Three, offers more aggressive pricing but is behind when it comes to coverage.
3G broadband is now more competitively priced than even entry level DSL. Coverage by the major network operators also rivals DSL:
• Telstra offers 99 percent coverage with its Next G network
• Optus offers 96 percent with its Yes G network. Aims to hit 98 percent by end the end of 2009
• Vodafone and Three to merge Australian operations to achieve 95 percent coverage
VPN services meet your business needs
VPN (Virtual Private Network) access is becoming the most significant driver for 3G broadband uptake when it comes to SMEs. It is being used for a mix of mobile, roaming and fixed requirements and as a substitution for DSL services, in circumstances where it arguably offers advantages. The availability of network-based 3G broadband VPN services will serve to increase the attractiveness of 3G broadband to business customers due to the high speed, broad coverage and relatively low cost that it now offers.
VPN is ideal for SME businesses. The ability to build corporate networks on a common IP core has transformed the way such businesses operate. The ability to connect 3G broadband services into such networks will drive further transformation. IP VPN technology is now very mature, having evolved in parallel with DSL. The speed and cost of 3G services is evolving more rapidly than was the case for DSL. 3G broadband is able to be used as a mobile, nomadic and fixed service, making it extremely versatile.
3G mobile broadband and your business
Being inherently ‘mobile,’ 3G broadband services are ideal for use by mobile field resources such as consultants and service technicians. Similarly, it is well suited to regular travelers or ‘road warriors’ that need access from their hotel, while at a client site or simply between meetings whilst sitting in a coffee shop. Sales staff will also benefit from the mobile nature of 3G broadband. They might look up and/or update details whilst with a client or perhaps avoid unnecessarily trips back to the office between meetings, saving precious selling time.
I met with a client recently who has consultants that typically work on location at major banks and financial institutions. They have often found it hard to make arrangements for appropriate connectivity for their staff, which may require allowing for VPN access through a firewall. VPN access via a 3G broadband connection is an ideal solution in this instance; however it would be wise to have an external antenna, particularly if working in multi-story buildings.
In sites with a single computer and/or where an appropriate router and/or firewall is used, 3G broadband services may also be used to cater for ‘nomadic’ or ‘fixed’ requirements.
Given that there is no need to ‘install’ or ‘uninstall’ a 3G broadband service, they offer significant benefits for nomadic requirements. An example might be a stand at a trade show, where it has typically been costly and painful to set up appropriate network connectivity. Other examples might be a short-term retail shop, a temporary office while a business goes through a period of change or perhaps a disaster recovery site. In each case, 3G broadband offers cost savings and much less fuss.
Think of a staff member who frequently works from home and occasionally works on client sites. A 3G broadband service provides access in both cases and might also feature in your disaster recovery plan as it enables them to work from wherever it is deemed appropriate. And if they leave the business, you can reallocate their 3G device to another member of staff without having to pay any setup or termination fees. In short, 3G broadband is very adaptable and offers significant flexibility.
Network-based 3G VPN services
Telstra and Optus have begun to offer 3G VPN services that are network-based by terminating a 3G broadband service onto an MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) VPN. Optus has recently begun to offer a wholesale service that also enables other carriers and service providers to interconnect in order to offer such services via the Optus Yes G network. Telarus is one of these operators and will launch its 3G VPN service shortly.
A network-based 3G VPN service may avoid the necessity for VPN tunneling and encryption technologies. This results in faster access and more efficient use of bandwidth (saving money), due to reduced protocol overhead. It also makes access to the corporate network with a 3G broadband service much easier and more stable. Regular users of 3G broadband for VPN access will no doubt appreciate the ability to simply ‘plug and play’ with a network-based VPN service.
There are many security features that can be enabled if your carrier or service provider offers a comprehensive managed firewall service and you have a discrete network-based VPN for your 3G broadband services. Any required internet access can be authenticated and is centrally protected by the firewall. There is also the ability to apply policy control when a device on a 3G broadband service tries to connect to the corporate network (for e.g. you might only allow access to a Windows Terminal Server).
Network-based 3G VPN services will provide tools that will further accelerate the growth of 3G broadband for business by enabling easier and/or more secure access to corporate networks.
Widespread 3G uptake is driving increased speeds, enhanced coverage and lower prices that will in turn lead to further growth. The global proliferation of HSPA as a technology will support this trend, enabling the ability to ‘roam,’ delivering ongoing enhancements and assisting to make high quality devices available at the best possible price.
For SMEs, VPN access will be the primary driver for 3G broadband uptake. It will enable 3G broadband to be used not only for mobile workers but also as an alternative or to complement fixed broadband as a ‘nomadic’ or ‘fixed’ access service. Benefits will include increased flexibility and efficiency, reduced costs and greater fault tolerance.
Given the high speed and many benefits offered by 3G broadband, we are already starting to see substitution of 3G broadband services for DSL and other fixed line technologies and analysts agree that this is only going to continue, 3G broadband is the way of the future for the SME market.
–Jules Rumsey is CEO of Telarus (www.telarus.com.au), the infrastructure-based service provider with headquarters in Melbourne. Telarus offers leading edge solutions for business customers and has national coverage in Australia and New Zealand.